Coming down Rt. 3 East heading toward the Lincoln Tunnel, the clouds hung low over Manhattan and reflected the lights of Midtown back onto itself. I couldn’t help but think of this again later last night as I watched EyeHateGod reflect back to Brooklyn the rigors of societal ills largely ignored by art and mainstream politics: addiction, disaffection, nihilism, riffing. The list goes on.
I got to Europa in Brooklyn‘s traditionally Polish Greenpoint neighborhood just in time to see the blackthrash duo Knight Terror open the gig. I’d have pegged them for locals, but apparently they came all the way from Portland, Oregon, to be there (though I imagine there’s a wormhole that makes that trip easier). With lead-vocal/drums and guitar, they blasted through a set of Slayer riffs and blackened screaming — think Midnight or Toxic Holocaust — and did nothing to offend. They had the first pit of the evening, if that’s any example of how they were well received by the crowd who, like myself, was still basically just showing up while they played.
The bill was right on. A Sunday show is a daunting prospect, and you could see in the crowd right from the start who had to get up and go to work Monday morning and who didn’t. I’ll say at the outset I was mostly there to see Hull play new material from the Beyond the Lightless Sky album. Having missed them at their release show with Rwake owing to family concerns and having missed them with Naam at the recent Acheron benefit because I live under a rock, I wasn’t going to let 2011 end without seeing them play those songs. EyeHateGod is great, don’t get me wrong, but it was Hull that got me off my ass.
And no regrets. The three-guitar five-piece gave solid confirmation of why I’ve come to think of them as Brooklyn‘s most formidable and creative metal export in the wake of Beyond the Lightless Sky. Playing second in front of Doomriders and EyeHateGod, their set was about 45 minutes, and in that time, they played only stuff from the new album, which suited me just fine since that’s what I’d been hoping for to start with, and hit off immediately with the complex rhythmic mayhem of “Earth From Water,” which, like the rest of it, they nailed.
Guitarist Nick Palmirotto‘s delivery of the songs — his vocals are probably the most consistently present in the songs, but at any point in a Hull set, anyone but drummer Jeff Stieber could be singing, and there’s usually more than one at once — is among the most passionate I’ve seen in a long time, and just off a recent month-long US tour, Hull made the Europa stage look and sound too small. Palmirotto, fellow guitarists Drew Mack and Carmine Laietta and bassist Seanbryant Dunn traded parts back and forth, growls and screams and shouts comingling with cleaner singing that seemed to be drowning in its own massive tonality. For Stieber‘s part, every snare hit on Beyond the Lightless Sky sounds like a sentence ending, and that remained true for the live set as well, but watching him play, I was all the more impressed for the ghost notes and subtler hits he works into his timing amidst the massive fills.
There’s some of that on the album, listening back now, but the impression I got during their set was it’s even more than they captured in the studio, which is saying something. The only place Hull saw a dip in momentum was between the songs. After tearing through “Beyond the Lightless Sky” or “Fire Vein” before closing out with “False Priest,” they had to stop and tune after each cut. Obviously they’re busy while they’re playing the songs themselves, but I felt like with three guitars, the bass and the drums, there should be noise the whole time, something to keep that forward drive moving. On the record, their longer tracks are offset by ambient/instrumental pieces, and I wanted some of that side to show up in the live setting as well.
Of course, it was a homecoming show for them, basically, playing to a crowd who knows them and has known them for a while, so I think it’s safe to say they were playing it casual, and either way, they killed it. Each off-time hit, on-a-dime turn and tempo shift was powerful, and they hit it all hard enough to remind what a month solid on the road can really do in service to a band’s chemistry. Some of Laietta‘s leads came through low in the mix (it might have been where I was standing), but I didn’t envy Doomriders having to follow.
But then, I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of Doomriders, or at least not as big a fan of the music as I am of the band’s name, which is unfuckwithably cool. Guitarist/vocalist Nate Newton had “Property of Converge” spraypainted on the back of his Orange cabinets (he was also in Old Man Gloom), and the Boston foursome took a bit to get into the swing of their set, but handled the songs well once they did. The thing about Doomriders that’s always kind of gotten to me, especially seeing them live as I have a couple times over the years, is I feel like the riffs are purposefully dumbed down. There’s nothing wrong with a band trying to keep their approach simple, but somehow Doomriders seem to be winking while they’re playing as if to say, “Yeah, we know we’re smarter than this.”
It wouldn’t be anything near the felonies committed when EyeHateGod took the stage — stabbings, arson, police brutality, jury tampering — but there was some violence in honor of Doomriders‘ energetic riffing and Newton‘s Tom Araya-esque shouts. I stood in back for most of the set, and did the same for EyeHateGod, and the now-full room was more than glad to go along with what the band had on offer, bassist Jebb Riley and drummer Chris Bevalaqua working up a sweat keeping up with the trying pace of Chris Pupecki and Newton‘s guitars, which were very much at the fore.
They didn’t really have me hooked until their last song, the irresistible groove of which was as an appropriate a lead-in as EyeHateGod could ask for. Regarding the New Orleans sludge mainstays/progenitors/forebears, I’ll say this: I had previously sworn off seeing EyeHateGod. I had (and I’m sure they were really feeling the loss) done so because I felt like every time I went and saw EyeHateGod, I was just enabling them to further delay putting out a new album, and god dammit, it’s time for a new EyeHateGod album. It’s about six years past time for a new EyeHateGod album, actually, and you know what the band’s not doing when they’re popping up to New York for shows? They’re not putting out a new album. So I said I wasn’t going to see them anymore until they had a new record to support.
Didn’t work out, clearly, but I did manage to gain some hope that the next EyeHateGod album will be good. Hear me out. When I last interviewed Jimmy Bower, he subtly expressed some concern that part of the reason it had taken the band so long to record and release a new album was that he didn’t know if they could be as dirty, as gritty and as fucked up as they once were. And after watching last night’s EyeHateGod set in Brooklyn, I realized this: EyeHateGod are fuck ups. Through and through. And it wasn’t even watching drummer Joe LaCaze snort something before they started playing, and it wasn’t frontman Mike Williams‘ occasional professions of his desire to die, it was Bower himself.
Arguably, unless bassist Gary Mader or guitarist Brian Patton (also of Soilent Green) owns a small business or something like that, Jimmy Bower seems to be the dude in EyeHateGod who most has his shit together. He plays in Down, he’s usually the public face, and he seems all around like a down to earth kind of guy. But when he broke a string last night before the band even started playing — it was during their big feedback opening — and effectively derailed the set before it even began, I stepped back and said, “You know, things are gonna be okay for the next EyeHateGod.”
Because that’s not the kind of fuck up you actively make. No one’s setting out to do that. It just happens. It’s who you are. Believe me, I know. I once watched as my car keys swirled around in a toilet and then were gone. If Jimmy Bower is at all worried EyeHateGod wouldn’t be able to be what they once were, he need have no such concerns. Ultimately, you can’t fight what you are, and as I watched Patton set his guitar down (still feeding back) and go over to help Bower restring his own, I was utterly comforted in knowing that whenever the next EyeHateGod studio effort materializes, things will be just fine.
To that end, they did play two new songs they’ve been kicking around for a while: “Medicine Noose” and “New Orleans is the New Vietnam” amidst the host of noisy, groovy familiars. Their set was a wash of riffs, cigarette smoke, and crowd violence. People were on and off the stage the whole time, and the rush to the stage when they finally got going was immediate. My back still hurts. Brooklyn, it seemed, didn’t care that it’s seen this show before. The crowd — myself included — was happy to revel in the sonic “opting out” that has always been EyeHateGod‘s hallmark, though at around midnight, the room started to thin out, as the aforementioned “had to work today” portion split.
With some acknowledgement of the blasphemy, I’ll add that I didn’t stay to see them finish either. At 12:30, I looked at my watch, realized I wouldn’t be home until 2AM, and made my way out. I can only assume, since I haven’t heard otherwise, that the show is still going on, well into Monday afternoon, and that EyeHateGod are continuing to destroy Europa as they’ve done so many times in the past.
A bunch of extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.